Winter, for me, is the best time to pack some warm clothes, food, hot drinks and water, boots for hiking, wetsuit and a couple of boards to go exploring. There is more swell from the passing storms so the more sheltered spots and hidden gems come alive when the wind and tides are just right. And its usually less crowded...
Surfing is a good way to blow away the cobwebs and to relieve any pent up frustrations and anxieties as well as helping you maintain your fitness and flexibility. During the long winter months when your surfing time is reduced due to the limited hours of light and the cold conditions a few hours of surfing in a day can be enough to get you stoked for the rest of the week!
I've spent many hours driving around the UK searching for waves and sometimes I have been lucky to find somewhere that, on the right day, delivers some of the best waves you can find. But there are days when the wind, swell direction or tide might be a little off and that magic wave doesn't even exist.
When I travel around I usually drive on my own or with a couple of friends just so I can keep the crowds down if there are locals around. I also keep certain waves very close to me so not to let others in on the secret... if you know, you know...! (and if you do know don't post or mention where please!)
On this particular day we decided to go somewhere we had been many times before and the wind, weather and tide seemed perfect but the swell was a bit different from what were used to... it was slightly in the wrong direction so it could either be a. Flat or b. Pumping or c. Slightly smaller than we thought. It turned out to be slightly smaller than we thought but we had taken the risk and the long drive, fog, tight muddy lanes, slippery fields and a long walk was worth it!
Getting changed and making sure you have all you need for the walk and the surf is something that when you're a grom is easy, you just get changed, run down and paddle out... nowadays I've got to make sure I have food and water, spare fins, a fin key, wax, warm clothes and make sure I lock the car and don't think to myself half way down, did I lock the car...!? (this time I left the bloody lights on so Chrus ran back to turn them off when we were told they were left on an hour after we got there...) And then the fun begins, walking through mud that will swallow your leg if you put it down in the wrong spot, negotiating fences without dinging your board and making sure you don't slip when you look back and laugh when you hear a yelp and a splash from behind...
We were greeted with pretty much perfection... 3-4ft clean waves glistening in the early morning sunshine, a light offshore wind and only a couple of others out. It was cold and the fog was just starting to burn away in the morning sun. This was the reason for getting up early in the cold darkness and driving for a couple of hours or so without knowing what you'll see as you go over the hill. It was all worth it, 4 hours of surfing waves with a few others, chatting, smiling and sharing the stoke. The only downside is the cold... the water is at its lowest this time of year but luckily the sun is starting to gain strength and as it shone it helped keep the cold out just that little bit more!
As the tide ebbed away and the waves became less consistent it was time to go. Getting out of the water and looking back and still seeing good waves breaking doesn't make it easy to leave but the aching arms and legs and the cold and the hunger makes the decision for you.
The long drive home is very different to the drive there, excitement is replaced by tiredness, high energy music is replaced by the radio, the talk of waves you want to get is replaced by the waves you had and the waves you missed and the smell off coffee is replaced by stinking wet wetsuits. The other thing on your mind is when you might be able to get another chance to go on another road trip and score more good waves with just a couple of friends. All you need is the time, the swell, the wind and the tide to all come together and you never know what you might find...
Filmed by Christian Jones.
I was riding a Luke Young Surfboards Meteor 5'7 x 19'1/4 x 2'1/4 Marko foam Eco Sled Quad with nubster.
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